NBA trade deadline season is officially underway and, big surprise, it was started by the Detroit Pistons’ uber-aggressive GM Troy Weaver. perimeter shooter Svi Mykhailiuk was dealt in exchange for Hamidou Diallo. The move means Weaver has almost completely remade the Detroit Pistons roster. There is just one man left standing since he took over the team a year ago — Sekou Doumbouya, who also happens to be the third-youngest player on the roster. I hope he keep an overnight bag packed.
What’s next will help define Weaver’s tenure and shape the Pistons’ future, and now is not the time to be gun shy. With the expanded playoff pool going 10-deep in each conference, there are almost no teams out of the playoff chase.
With few teams looking to shed players, and plenty of middling teams looking for a boost throughout their rotations, it’s a seller’s market. That means Weaver must listen, and now that he’s gotten rid of everyone he didn’t sign, he needs to listen on what teams are willing to give up for his guys, including Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and Delon Wright.
All three have been rumored to be fetching interest from various teams. Grant is high on the wish list of Boston. Plumlee is a cost-controlled, moderately paid center with plenty of teams looking to solidify their big men rotations. He’s already been linked to Brooklyn, though the Nets signing the recently bough out Blake Griffin might cross them off thee list. Delon Wright, meanwhile, is a guard who can play both positions, is an effective offensive player and, again, on a moderate salary for the rest of this season and next. He’s been linked to the Philadelphia 76ers.
It’s a scary proposition with things going so “well” with well decidedly in quotes. The Pistons are a terrible team, and sit at 10-28 and the second-worst record in the NBA. But the team obviously has chemistry building, and a roster full of young players who are having extremely solid seasons. Jettisoning the minimal veteran presence could implode the team’s ability to functionally run offense and defense and impede the development of the rookies.
But it’s the success of those rookies and young players that make the veterans expendable so soon. I admit, I’m not quite sure how this offense would function without Mason Plumlee in the high post setting screens and running dribble hand offs. But I’m willing to find out, because rookie Isaiah Stewart looks ready to inherit a starting role and elder statesman Doumbouya needs more time on the floor to sink or swim.
Wright, meanwhile, is a steadying presence but after trading Derrick Rose for Dennis Smith Jr and finding that Saben Lee looks like a potential hit in the second round, the Pistons need to find minutes for their young point guards. This becomes even more important if and when Killian Hayes returns from injury.
Then there is the story of Jerami Grant. Nobody on this roster can do what Grant does. Grant came here to be the featured player, and he is turning heads in a star role. But his value is extremely high right now and might never be higher. If a team gives you an offer you can’t refuse, well, you can’t refuse it.
That doesn’t mean that any offer Boston has presented would definitely be worth it. They don’t have high draft picks to offer and only a young big man among intriguing prospects. That doesn’t seem like it will get it done. But if more and more gets loaded onto the scale, eventually it will tip into, “take the deal” territory.
Despite the fact that he’s in the first year of a three-year deal, despite the fact that he’s the premier signing of Weaver’s young tenure, and despite the fact that Grant had personal as well as professional reasons for signing with the Pistons.
Each of those factors drive the price a little bit higher, but there is still a price, as Weaver himself has acknowledged.
“Untouchables? No. Nobody is untouchable. I learned never say never, but there are some guys that are here to stay, so we’ll see,” Weaver said, according to the Detroit News. “I might say, ‘Oh yeah, this guy’s untouchable,’ and then somebody calls me up with four first-round picks — then he’s not untouchable. Strange things have happened.”
There are plenty of large wings who are fighting for time on the floor along with Doumbouya. There is the rock solid Saddiq Bey, the chaotic but always enticing Josh Jackson and the new kid on the block in Diallo.
The Pistons are already the second-youngest team in the NBA after the trade for Diallo. The Pistons also have players signed next season — even if they traded all the players above plus Wayne Ellington — that are young at every position on the floor.
PG — Killian Hayes, Saben Lee and Dennis Smith Jr. (RFA)
SG — Hamidou Diallo (RFA), Josh Jackson
SF — Saddiq Bey
PF — Sekou Doumbouya
C — Isaiah Stewart
With another higher draft pick and decent second-rounder coming, and presumably picks in return for any of the veterans above, the Pistons would be well-stocked, young and flexible.
It’s OK if nothing happens with any of the veterans. In order of sell now and get what you can, I’d put it at Wayne Ellington (take a second rounder if you can), Delon Wright (low first-round pick and a flyer on a player or a more established player), Mason Plumlee (decent first-round pick) and Jerami Grant (godfather offer of multiple firsts and a good young player required).
It’s also OK if Weaver stays aggressive and starts dealing players he signed less than a year ago. As he said, strange things have happened.